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A group of French metal detectorists (from ANDL, the National Association for the Metal Detection of Leisure) has started sending details of their finds for recording at the Roman Legion Museum of Caerleon, in Wales, asking for an “archaeological asylum”. That’s the details of their finds, note, not the objects themselves – they are keeping those for themselves not giving them to the museum.  

                (Image credit – Happah)frogcrim11

Voici le patrimoine français, illégalement excavé par moi. The coins I will take home for myself. The knowledge I will send to les rosbifs. Je suis un unsung hero de France! 

It’s a bit of a stunt, aimed mainly at the French authorities, who they hope to “shame” on the grounds that metal detecting for archaeological artefacts shouldn’t be illegal over there. The only impact it is likely to have in Britain is that the Caerleon museum will lift the phone to the British police who will lift the phone to their French counterparts.

Or so one might think. But no!

Enter UKDFD (the British detectorists’ breakaway database for those who won’t record with PAS) : UKDFD has offered a clone of its database to the French guys and also host it for them

In case UKDFD is unfamiliar with Article L 542 of the French Patrimony Code, it says: Nobody can use equipment that allows the detection of metal objects , relating to seeking monuments or objects that could relate to prehistory, art or archaeology, without having, in advance, obtained an administrative authorisation delivered in relation to the qualifications of the seeker & the nature & methods of the research.

Since these French detectorists say they will be imprisoned if they report these items to their own authorities we can be confident that all the items for which asylum is being sought in Britain have been obtained without having obtained the necessary “administrative authorisation”. In other words, they are illicit.

In the circumstances one might have expected UKDFD to advise these people that if French law tells them not to put leurs patts grossières on French heritage they should simply do what they are told. Sadly, that is not the case since UKDFD, which constantly complains it has been branded “irresponsible” by all of Britain’s archaeological and heritage organisations is proposing to aid, abet and host a database of looted artefacts supplied by French criminals!

This revelation may not change the opinion of UKDFD in the minds of the British establishment any time soon!
It might also give them pause for thought on a wider level: if foreign heritage criminals see Britain as a sort of lawless banana republic where they can escape the consequences of their illegal activities in their home countries, maybe Britain needs to consider who is out of step, Britain or the rest of the world?

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